Today, I might get myself in trouble. Oh, not with the law, but with friends on both sides of the religious aisle. You see, today, I am going to step on some toes. However, I am hoping that you love me enough to hear what I have to say.
Back in April, my daughter and son-in-law left the U.S., heading for Croatia where they are missionaries. I attended their church service send-off. It was strange being back in a church service. Not wrong, just different.
The teaching by the associate pastor didn’t get my hackles up. In fact, it was good. I liked his teaching style. As I listened, something occurred to me – his entire teaching came from one of Paul’s letters.
It got me to thinking that most of what I used to hear in the church was teachings from Paul’s letters. Jesus? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paul’s letters. In fact, the more I study the Hebrew Scriptures, the more I am in love with Paul’s teachings.
Now, I am sure at this point, you are thinking, “So what’s the problem, Ro? Not stepping on any toes here.”
Okay, here it comes. As I sat there listening to this pastor teach from Paul’s writings, I realized it was just like the rabbis teaching from the Talmud. (There it is…toes stepped on, yes?)
Seriously, think about it. Here they have the Torah – God’s Spirit in writing – and they teach from the Talmud (which is volumes of written arguments between rabbis.) These men wrestled with God’s Torah, in the attempt to understand.
Here we are, not only with the Torah, but also the actual words from the mouth of Messiah, and we chose to study Paul’s writings instead.
Yes, I know that Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles, so naturally we would look to his words when we don’t understand what the Messiah said. However, have we gotten so used to letting someone else interpret the Word for us?
Now I bet you are thinking I’ve lost my mind, that Paul’s letters are part of the word of God. You’re right. No, not that I lost my mind, but that Paul’s letters are part of holy writ. But what about when he was alive? What word was he referring to when he wrote to Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved, rightly dividing the word of truth”?
Paul, in his letter to Timothy, was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures – the Torah, the prophets, and the writings. Don’t you think he would want us to do the same?
So, as I sat in that church, getting ready to say good-bye to my youngest child, my little girl who will always be my baby, God showed me that Jews and Gentiles are simply two sides of the same coin.
When we struggle with God’s word, we take the easy way out. We look to scholars to help us understand God, when all along He is right there beckoning us to ‘come away’ with Him.
This isn’t the first time when I’ve heard of the Apostolic Scriptures, including Paul’s letters, being considered commentary for the Tanakh. It opens up a whole can of worms, as you’ve recognized, but also as you’ve said, Paul was creating commentary and interpretation of the teachings of Yeshua and of the Torah, specifically for the Gentiles who would have the most difficult time understanding.
It is unfortunate that Paul’s writings have been misunderstood. I even have a friend who attends our congregation that doesn’t like Paul at all. Even though he is a Messianic, he views Paul’s letters from the same lens as mainstream Christianity.
Darren Huckey’s book, ‘Four Responsibilities of a Disciple’ challenged me to memorize Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount. I was practicing with a friend, then she moved out of town and it fell by the wayside. Have to get back into memorizing. It is amazing when you hear His words out loud, how they take on a clear meaning. Very powerful.